It’s Thursday night in South Beach and a standing room-only crowd looks on as Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia rips through a lyrical jazz fusion solo. As his other band members look on and faintly nod their approval, Felipe sails off into a range of blazing riffs that leaves the crowd roaring with applause. It’s a scene one might expect to find in New York or Chicago, but it occurs every night of the week here at Miami Beach’s premier jazz club — Upstairs at the Van Dyke.
It’s quite ironic that the Lincoln Road building where the father of Miami Beach, Carl Fisher, used to hawk land sales to northern investors back in the 1920s, is now the home of the Beach’s best live jazz venue. One flight up from the bustle of Lincoln Road’s Van Dyke Cafe and you’re in a cozy and intimate setting where an eclectic legion of top musicians perform nightly to an appreciative and music-savvy audience.
The big nightclubs in South Beach do host live performances on rare occasions, but the vast majority of nights are dedicated to a proven formula of big name DJs cranking out EDM, Hip-Hop and House. Thankfully, Upstairs at the Van Dyke is about as far from the typical South Beach club experience as one can get.
Miami has never really been at ease with straight-up jazz, a fact that’s most likely due to the clash of cultures and varying influences that shape the City’s musical tastes.
In comparing Miami’s jazz scene to that of other cities, Upstairs’ Music Director Randy Singer says, “there is a very low tolerance of straight ahead jazz in Miami. At the Van Dyke we mix up our straight ahead jazz with other nights of fusion, Brazilian, world, RnB, salsa…”
Singer says he “seeks to represent every major and sub-group of music in existence,” a fact confirmed with the recent Saturday night appearance by the Nouveaux Honkies, a group from Port Salerno whose repertory includes Americana, blues and roots music.
The range of talent passing through Upstairs encompasses the full spectrum of musical genres. In a one week period you might hear such performers as:
- Oriente – Afro-Cuban fusion
- Rodlofo Zuniga – Contemporary jazz
- Sol Ruiz – Psychedelic Cuban blues
- Sammy Figueroa – the music of Cal Tjader
- New World Beat – Ambient jazz and world music
Upstairs at the Van Dyke also hosts a Vintage Soul Night featuring RnB & Funk, plus an open mic night, and another night dedicated especially to songwriters.
The dinner menu available Upstairs includes a wide selection of meat and seafood entrees, plus Italian sandwiches, burgers, Middle Eastern dishes, small plates and desserts.
Shows start at 9pm, but we strongly advise arriving by 8:30 as the room fills quickly. There’s also a one drink minimum per set.
In determining who performs at Upstairs, Singer says he looks for “technical virtuosity” and “entertainment prowess.” His choice of Felipe Lamoglia for tonight’s performance was right on target.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, the next set is about to begin…
Upstairs at the Van Dyke
846 Lincoln Road
Miami, FL 33139
(photos © Joseph Brown – Miami Beach Magazine)